Re-designed Middlebury Money adds community-building punch

MIDDLEBURY — The Better Middlebury Partnership (BMP) has minted some new currency to promote downtown shopping, as well as the downtown itself.The BMP has produced a new version of the “Middlebury Money,” checks that can be purchased in various denominations for transactions at local retail, dining and lodging establishments. Middlebury Money was first “minted” around 15 years ago. At its peak, approximately $27,000 worth of Middlebury money was sold in one year, sparking business for local merchants and service providers.Recent years have seen Middlebury Money fall on some tough times, however.“We saw that its use was falling off because the BMP didn’t have the manpower to promote it,” said Becky Dayton, owner of the Vermont Book Shop and chairwoman of the BMP’s Middlebury Money Committee.Therefore, the BMP decided to infuse some new energy in Middlebury Money, giving it an additional dimension to its status as a shopping currency.Businesses or individuals may now opt to be a Middlebury Money sponsor. Those sponsors agree to match 10 percent of all Middlebury Money purchased (up to $2,500 annually), with all of those matching funds earmarked toward improvements to public property in Middlebury, along with events and special marketing efforts administered by the BMP.In addition, when Middlebury Money is redeemed at a business that is a matching partner, that business will give 5 percent of that purchase to BMP-directed promotions, events and improvements for Middlebury.“By using Middlebury Money, you are giving back to the community,” Dayton said.And the list of BMP events and efforts has been growing.The BMP sponsors an annual “Spooktacular” that on Oct. 30 drew more than 700 costumed trick-or-treaters and their families to downtown Middlebury.Next month, the BMP will host its annual “Very Merry Middlebury” that will feature visits by Santa Claus and seasonal activities for families.And early next year, the BMP will stage its annual Winter Carnival and Chili Contest, which is fast becoming one of the state’s premier draws.A beer, wine and cheese festival is also in the works for next spring, potentially in the Marble Works shopping area.While successful, the BMP signature events come at a price.“These are expensive to put on,” Dayton said.Dayton and her colleagues hope that Middlebury Money and other initiatives will generate funds to help pay for the annual events that, in turn, give back to the merchants and the community at large.Gold-level sponsors, who have pledged to match 10 percent of all Middlebury Money sold (up to $2,000 annually), currently include r.k. Miles, MacIntyre Services and the National Bank of Middlebury. Holden Financial Services has signed up as a silver-level sponsor; silver-level sponsors pledge to match 5 percent of all Middlebury Money sold (up to $1,000 annually). Matching Partners who have committed to donating 5 percent of every sale paid with Middlebury Money at their business currently include Forth ’n Goal, Noonie’s Deli, Skihaus of Vermont, Two Brothers Tavern, The Vermont Book Shop, Otter Creek Used Books, Distinctive Paint & Interiors, Belladonna and Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op.Not only has the Middlebury Money program been reconceived, the currency itself has been updated. Thanks to many hours of design work donated by Adrienne Illick MacIntyre, the checks now feature what Dayton called “a fresh, modern look.”Middlebury Money can be purchased at The Middlebury Inn, The Vermont Book Shop, and all Middlebury branches of the National Bank of Middlebury. Middlebury Money will also be available for purchase at the Better Middlebury Partnership’s Very Merry Middlebury celebration in downtown Middlebury during the morning of Dec. 4. “Middlebury Money is an important component for supporting our local economy and sustaining a vibrant Middlebury,” said BMP President Donna Donahue. “Thanks to a totally revamped Middlebury Money program that includes participating sponsors, not only do the dollars spent stay in our community, but sponsor donations contribute to a fund that creates capital to reinvest in the community. “What that means is that the dollars you spend get put to work twice. You help support local businesses, and sponsors make contributions based on the amount spent to a fund that supports the local community. What a great way to support Middlebury.”Those interested in sponsoring or becoming a matching partner of Middlebury Money may contact the BMP at ed@bettermiddleburypartnership.org or 388-4126.Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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